A pair of the best night vision binoculars and goggles are essential to watch nocturnal wildlife in its natural habitat, especially this time of the year. While many people want to be indoors in the warm when it gets dark, more intrepid souls look for observational opportunities that only the onset of dusk can deliver. The only to do that without disturbing the creatures of the gloom or drawing attention to yourself is to use night vision binoculars and goggles.
They differ from the best binoculars in that they're specifically geared towards use in low light. These devices use the same principle of amplifying available light to provide an enhanced monochromatic image that's often green-hued. Green has been chosen as a colour as our eyes are more sensitive to and capable of looking at it for extended periods without getting tired.
While we've focused on devices with two eyepieces here, some of today's best monoculars are also specialised for night viewing. Read on for some key features to look for, followed by our pick of the best night vision binoculars and goggles you can buy today.
Best night vision binoculars and goggles to buy right now
Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
The versatile Solomark Night Vision Binoculars are capable of providing a view even in complete darkness thanks to an infrared illuminator that allows viewing up to an impressive 1300ft/400 metres on a moonless night and, more unusually, can be used in the daytime as well if wanted. Further talking points include its large 4-inch viewscreen, multi-coated lenses, a more generous than most 7x magnification plus 2x digital zoom, 50mm objective lens size and integral 1/3-inch CMOS sensor.
In short, these night-vision binos would seem to have it all, including, unusually, a generous 32GB microSD card provided out of the box with the rest of the kit. Video is of HD quality, 1280x720 pixels at 30fps, with photos basically video grabs, plus a supplied AV cable plus micro USB 2.0 cable provided for hooking up to a TV monitor or PC.
Power comes courtesy of eight regular AA batteries (which you'll need to purchase separately, as usual), or you could plug the provided USB cable straight into a portable power bank for extra juice while in the great outdoors. In terms of protection for your kit when out in the wet and the wild, this Solomark device offers IPX4 grade water resistance, which translates as being suitable for use in the rain but not for fully submerging in water.
Resembling a standard pair of binoculars with extra 'webbing', this hand held option from respected German brand Bresser may be relatively modest in terms of specification, but this also makes it very affordable for newcomers to nighttime observation. Here we get a 3x magnification, which can be further boosted 2x digitally, married to a standard resolution 640x480 sensor with 320x240 LCD. Maximum detection range is up to a very useful 130 metres, while there are five adjustable infrared brightness levels, plus a large hooded screen for comfortable viewing with both eyes, and even when wearing glasses.
A carry strap and bag are also usefully included in the box with the item. OK, so its black rubberized exterior may resemble Darth Vader's handbag to some; but in the dark, no one can see us, right? You just need to remember to pack the four AA rechargeable batteries it requires for power – battery life is up to an 'OK if hardly remarkable' five hours – and an SD card if you want to actually record any images. In short though, this is a great value option that ticks most boxes and will suit those who want to try out night vision for themselves without breaking the bank in the process.
This robustly rubber-armoured, weather-resistant option may look bulky, but in fact weighs a manageable 413g; just as well, because a head strap is included so you can go 'hands free' operationally if desired. Alternatively there is a padded shoulder strap in the box. The key specification here includes a 1x magnification with 2x digital zoom booster if required, while the built-in 7-step infrared capability is such that it can illuminate a subject in complete darkness from as far as 70 metres away.
A hooded view screen and large display makes things comfortable for spectacle wearers in providing relaxed observation using both eyes, while there is a micro USB interface provided for recharging the 5V rechargeable battery that's capable of delivering up to eight hours of operation. Perfect for chilly winter evenings spent out in the wild in complete darkness, there is simple control layout with large buttons, all designed to facilitate use as well as aiding those who may be wearing gloves.
Looking for a pair of night vision binoculars almost half the size of most alternatives on the market, in order to spot skittish creatures from afar? This compact palm-sized, lightweight pair allow for convenient one-handed use in complete darkness, while also standing out from the competition in offering a daytime mode for around-the-clock observation.
A built-in rechargeable battery claiming up to 10 hours of working time can be charged in the car or via a portable power bank, and avoids the need for the added weight and expense of a handful of AAs. The core features of the GeowFii Mini include infrared vision, a 1.3 megapixel CMOS sensor at its heart, coupled with a 25mm objective lens. You also get Full HD video with audio capture, and/or 12MP still images, plus the choice of a 4x or 8x digital zoom to bring the action closer, with a small-ish 2.4-inch high definition screen provided to view it all on. Also handily included is a 32GB microSD card to save all the action witnessed.
An alternative comes in the shape of a monocular device available from the same manufacturer with largely the same core features, should that method of night-time observation find personal favour. Either way, this option won’t break the bank for anyone looking to have a go at seeking out subjects in the dark at an affordable, almost pocket money price.
Best for covert observation
This 'fox' is a cunningly sleek device offering a respectable 50 metres range and the ability to record video clips. A bonus that sets it apart from most is that it additionally offers a GoPro-compatible mounting bracket, meaning that this pair of night vision goggles can be helmet mounted if so desired for hand-free operation. Offering 1x magnification, a decision taken because its manufacturer suggests that when using night vision on the move, the best magnification is no magnification at all – though a 2x digital zoom function is offered if the user doesn't agree – included also is an infrared LED with reduced visible glow, thereby allowing the wearer to roam unseen. Unfortunately there is something of a trade-off here, as the reduced glow results in a reduced viewing range of the 50 metres quoted.
Keeping things simple and operation speedy, one-touch recording onto microSD card, which here is an optional extra, is offered, as is one-button adjustment of screen brightness to save us having to scroll through menus when you want to be concentrating on whatever you're observing instead. A widescreen display for viewing with both eyes is also provided. Power comes courtesy of four AA batteries. Again, as with the required memory card, these are an additional purchase.
Best for recording footage
Resembling something from a sci-fi movie, this chunky pair of night vision binos from German brand Bresser arrives with the reassurance of 60 years of heritage, a 3x magnification and the ability to boost this with a 2x digital zoom. It therefore ticks most of the boxes for what anyone would want when attempting night-time observation, while keeping operation simple and pared back to the essentials.
With rubber armouring offering a degree of resilience and adding a firm grip, plus a big wraparound eyepiece making it suited to spectacle wearers, its seven-step infrared operation can illuminate a subject even in total darkness at a range of 120 metres. Of course, there’s the possibility to view even further than this if low light conditions allow. Alternatively, the closest focus possible is just one metre from the product.
The handheld Bresser Digital Night Vision Binocular 3x also finds room for a microSD card slot via which to store any video recordings made or still images captured, and a 5V rechargeable battery that can last for up 8 hours of use, while weighing a manageable 335g overall. Charging is via a supplied USB cable, which can theoretically be hooked up to a portable power bank when out in the field to enable additional hours of use, while you also get a padded shoulder strap for comfort when using the night vision binos out and about, while a separate attachment can be sourced should any user want to hear it on their head. A reassuringly versatile choice.
Best hybrid (day/night use)
Bushnell is one of those solid consumer brands that matches reliability and performance with decent value for money. Its current offering for those seeking a pair of digital night vision binoculars is no exception, which in this case weds a 2x magnification to a 40mm glass objective lens. As expected, the build here is both rugged and water resistant, while the binoculars themselves can be utilised for both day and night operation. Sailing and not just night time wildlife watching is suggested as one of their possible uses, for example. Also included is an infrared spotlight, described as powerful enough to deliver its 55 yard range. It's not just all about the viewing however, as image capture and video recording are part and parcel of the package too. In short, you get just about everything you need from a device that is relatively familiar to use from the get-go.
Constructed from polycarbonate, the water resistant Nightfox Corsac digital night vision binocular offers a viewing range of 200 yards plus, 3x magnification and a Full HD sensor. In fact, this model, which surely missed a trick in not calling itself ‘Crosshair’, combines an HD infrared sensor with an infrared LED for delivering what it claims is a crystal clear image at night. Plus, if there is sufficient ambient light, a viewing range greater than the quoted 200 yards is possible.
And there’s no need to store those one-in-a-lifetime observations in our personal memory bank either. As with competing options, this one comes supplied with a bundled 32GB capacity memory card for recording video footage of whatever we’re viewing. Still photos are also possible.
This latest generation Nightfox model comes with a new improved eyepiece with a wraparound design to minimise light escaping around the edges while delivering a degree of comfort.
Rather than providing a rechargeable lithium ion battery, six AAs optional are required for up to three hours of continuous use, which you’ll need to purchase separately before you can use the device. A removable battery magazine is provided at the base of the device for relatively easy access. To avoid burning through cells at a rate of knots, the manufacturer advises disabling the infrared LED, which also means there is no potentially distracting red glow emitted. Fortunately a USB cable is provided for hooking the product up to our PC or Mac. A ‘fox’ with plenty of cunning features.
How to choose the best night vision binoculars and goggles for you
When it comes to choosing the best night vision binos and goggles for you, first decide on what you want them for, and then, having surveyed a broad range of options available, set your budget. Obviously price will vary dependent on the number of features and the degree of specification provided, including how much wear and tear they might be able to withstand.
Feature sets aside, practicality and portability are almost as important as performance. Are you comfortable with wearing a head set, which is what night goggles typically are, or would you prefer something to hand hold, in which case night vision binoculars may feel both more comfortable and more familiar?
Being hands free with a pair of night vision goggles does have its obvious advantages though, including being able to, with a turn of the head, look rapidly in multiple directions to track our visible quarry. As ever it's a case of horses for courses and whatever feels right for you.
Be aware that unlike regular binoculars, night vision devices require power, such as, typically, AA or AAA batteries. This adds to the weight, and also means that you need to make sure you have a ready supply with sufficient juice to see you through your period of observation. It's worth taking a look at those models that incorporate a power saving auto-cut off function during periods of inactivity, to save on wasted battery.
If you do really want the most lightweight option available, then also check out the available options for night vision monoculars. Comprising a single tube with a lens and an eyepiece, these tend to be more affordable too, if less commonplace overall. And if you're curious about the inner workings of it all, head to our guide to how exactly night vision goggles work.